Monday, February 22, 2016

Conservation Corps #3

Publication date: November, 1993

Script: Dan Nakrosis (story 1 & 2) and Paul Castiglia (story 1 only)
Pencils and letters: Dan Nakrosis (story 1 & 2)
Colors: Barry Grossman
Managing edits: Victor Gorelick


“Oil Fowled Up!”

The Conservation Corps counterattack against Robo-Oily Bird and also I just got that “Danopaulus” is a portmanteau of the creators’ first names.  Firefly attempts to ignite the duck’s fuel, but the fowl just swats him away.  Stonehedgehog tries next, realizing that petroleum is a mineral and he should have the power to control his foe.  Robo-Oily Bird makes the ground too slippery for Stonehedgehog to get any traction and he goes careening off into the distance.  With no water or plant life around, Water Buffalo and Green Horn resort to fisticuffs, but cannot put a dent in Robo-Oily Bird’s armor.

Finally, Sky Shark steps up to the plate.  She tells the “inferior gender” to stand aside and boasts that she can take their enemy down all by herself.  Robo-Oily Bird chases her into the sky, but suddenly finds himself short of breath and plummets back down to the surface of Danopaulus.  Sky Shark brags that she simply sucked all the oxygen away in a vacuum around Oily Bird, asphyxiating him.

With Robo-Oily Bird unconscious, Benevolence has the corrupt Congressman taken away by the authorities.  The Corps asks who he is and Benevolence reveals that the Congressman’s name is Malevolence and that they’re brothers.  As for Robo-Oily Bird, Benevolence says that he’ll be sent to the planet’s polar region to be held in suspended animation until he can find a way to return the mutated water fowl back to normal.

The Corps offers to stay and help Danopualus with its reconstruction, but Benevolence insists that they have done enough.  Instead, he and his followers will find a way to balance ecology and economy.  The Conservation Corps, however, must return to Earth and use their powers to keep the planet from becoming as fargone as Danopaulus.  As the Corps leaves in the Pod-Ship, Benevolence promises that he will continue to mentor them from a distance.

When they return to Earth, the Pod-Ship lands in the South Pole and expands into a new high tech headquarters for the Corps… albeit one not drawn on-panel because that would be too much work.

“Fossils ‘n Foam”

In Kearny, New Jersey, a local boy named Frankie introduces himself and begins telling how he met the Conservation Corps…

A small meteor crashes into a dump on the edge of Kearny.  The meteorite pierces through numerous layers of debris until at last lodging itself in the fossilized skull of a tyrannosaurus rex.  The radiation from the meteorite brings the t-rex back to life, but it is missing parts of its skeleton.  Using its new radioactive powers, it collects all the non-biodegradable material it can find, namely styrofoam, and reassembles itself, becoming Styranofoamus Rex.

The monster goes on a rampage throughout Kearny and news quickly spreads across the country.  The President considers nuking New Jersey, Steven Spielberg tries to sue because he thinks he owns the trademark on dinosaurs, an opportunistic preacher in the Bible Belt attempts to sell a book on the End Times to the panicking public, Dan Nakrosis sleeps through the whole thing, and finally, in the South Pole…

At Conservation Corps HQ, the heroes get wind of the rampage and take their Pod-Ship to Kearny.  Firefly offers to melt Styranofoamus, but Water Buffalo stops him.  Melting styrofoam and plastics only creates poisonous gases which could harm the ozone layer!  Green Horn has a plan, and setting the Pod-Ship down by the river, begins to distract Styranofoamus…

Suddenly, Frankie gets called to lunch by his mother.  Hurrying away, he promises to conclude the tale very soon.

Turtle Tips:

*This story is continued from Conservation Corps #2.  The second story ends on a cliffhanger with a note asking fans to write in and request more Conservation Corps comics from Archie to see what happens next.  No further comics were ever published, so I guess we’ll never know what became of Styranofoamus Rex.

*This issue also included pin-ups by Fred Hembeck, Paul Castiglia, Brigitte & Mark Morales, Eric Shanower, and Amanda Conner.


The people have spoken!  And what did they say?  “You can keep the second half of that styrofoam dinosaur story, thanks.”

Yeah, isn’t that a little embarrassing?  Nakrosis and Castiglia deliberately left their last issue off on a cliffhanger, encouraging their fanbase to start a letter writing campaign for more Conservation Corps comics.  Except they neglected to realize that they didn’t HAVE a fanbase to begin with.  It seems they were hoisted by their own petards.

I’ve never gotten to type that colloquialism before.  Let me have this.

“Oil Fowled Up!” is a lackluster conclusion to the ongoing story of the miniseries; breaking this finale up into two segments ultimately shortchanged the A-plot.  Robo-Oily Bird winds up jobbing to Sky Shark to make the new character look good; something of a cliché I think we’re all a little tired of.  

We get our one and only glimpse of Sky Shark’s personality during this fight, as she refers to her male comrades as “the inferior gender” and then proceeds to parry Robo-Oily Bird’s randomly sexist/chauvinistic/misogynistic insults.  So it looks like she was going to be the stock “girl power” character, had this series continued.  Oh, what wonders we missed out on.  Ah well, at least they didn’t try to awkwardly sexualize her or anyth-

Sigh.  The sad reality is that thanks to the law of averages, someone somewhere has jacked off to this.  Let that thought keep you warm at night.

Also, the unnamed Congressman villain FINALLY gets an identity in this very last issue.  Also, he’s Benevolence’s brother.  It’s, like, Shakespearian symmetry or something.  Well, it’s definitely something, anyway.

“Fossils ‘n Foam” introduces, and I’m loathe to admit it, a pretty cool monster in Styranofoamus Rex.  A radioactive t-rex made out of styrofoam that no one can blow up because then it would destroy the ozone layer?  That’s just crazy enough to not be entirely terrible!

The series ends on a cliffhanger, as mentioned, so we’ll never know how the Corps defeated him.  Or IF they defeated him.  Since young Frankie is still breathing, I’m going to assume the Corps was victorious, but there’s always the chance they sacrificed themselves in battle.  I’ve got my fingers crossed.

So yeah, needless to say, this entire miniseries is awful.  The art is amateurish, the storytelling is formulaic, the characters have no personality, the messages are preachy… It’s just totally fuckin’ bad.  

It’s a relic of a time when EVERY cartoon, comic and toyline was getting in on the environmentalism movement (G.I. Joe even had the Eco Force.  Yes, the “Eco Force”) and maybe it’ll take you back to those days in the early ‘90s when this shit was so common.  But expect it to feel less like nostalgia and more like a bad memory.

Grade: F (as in, “Fred Hembeck produced the only solid laugh I got out of this whole miniseries”.)


Adam said...

Thank you for suffering through these, Mark. Thanks to your summaries, I've had a lot of my jumbled memories of the series cleared up. I had only vaguely remembered the Styrofoam T-Rex, and was actually getting him mixed up with the Oily Bird. It's hard to believe that he was only in half of the last issue, because he's the one thing I really remember liking about the entire series.

I had long thought of the Conservation Corps as spin-off characters in the TMNTA universe stemming from their appearance in the TMNT Special, but your comment in the review of issue #1 has persuaded me that they ought to be conspired distinct crossover characters. I had wrongly remembered the CC mini-series as making shameless usage of the "TMNT Presents" stamp ala the Mighty Mutanimals. But apparently the only thing the TMNT-verse had to do with this comic was the flashback in the first issue.

In reality, I guess this whole experiment was nothing more than Archie's attempt to create their own stable of original characters in the familiar style of TMNT or Sonic the Hedgehog. Kinda weird that Kevin Eastman contributed a pinup drawing, but beyond that the TMNT connections tapper off.

Too bad Null couldn't have sent the Gang of Four back in time to murder the Conservation Corps instead of the Mutanimals.

Killer Moth said...

It could be Amanda Conner, the signature looks right to me. Or that's my best guess until proven otherwise.

If only Styranofoamus Rex could have crossed over to the main TMNT series, as to wrap up his story. And not like Murphy wouldn't have been game for it, as per his own eco issues. Oh, well, maybe next time.

Anonymous said...

To think those furry pin-ups were made a good 5-10 years before rule 34 would become a thing on the internet.

I guess there were furries in the 80's and 90's too, we just didn't know about them because the internet did not exist.

Anonymous said...

Did Steven Spielberg ever claim ownership of the trex is that meant to be a parody of something

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, good old fighting sexism with slightly different sexism, trend that can't die fast enough. I can believe that writers (male ones, most often) would so often write female saying something like "boys are stupid", look at it and go "Yes, she will be great role model for girl and she boys who read this surely will learn that girls are cool too!"

The biggest shame is that Sky Shark as a concept is probably coolest team member. a) She's a flying shark, that's cool. b) It's nice to have shark that isn't evil. c) Her name is the least stupid or generic, fitting TMNT style d) It's nice that girl doesn't have to be generic cute animal like fox or cat.

Mark Pellegrini said...

@Killer Moth

I think you're right about that being Amanda Conner. Her signature has changed since, but she still signs her first name in block letters. And according to Wikipedia, she was working for Archie in the late 80s and early 90s, so it seems about right.

Chet said...

Heroic anthropomorphic animals pretty much stopped appearing in comics and cartoons around the time this dreadfully looking thing came out, or at least they became a lot less common. Bad TMNT, Cerebus and Usagi copycats quickly put an end to that whole era by over-saturating the market, and by being nowhere near as awesome as Batman: The Animated Series or the revamped X-Men that we launched around the same time.

That backlash is still being felt today, because there haven't been any full-on reboots of franchises like Bucky O'Hare (which was cool) or anything. I think they briefly tried to bring Biker Mice From Mars back, but I can't imagine anyone got too excited about that, as they disappeared without much fanfare. Or any. Luckily the Turtles made a glorious transition into the 21st century, in big part thanks to Laird's involvement with the 4kids cartoon series and Nickelodeon's fun take on the current animated show.

Austin Reed said...

I'd assume the Avenger Pemguins helped C. Corps by being a ridiculous deliberate parody. May Freedom Planet signal a return of this trend?

Anonymous said...

@ Chet, I think the reason animal shows died out is also because of anime. Anime like Pokemon, Digimon, etc. have you battling with animal looking monsters anyway, so it sort of replaced those type of shows.

Austin Reed said...

Will you cover Gnatrat and Pteranno-Man as well?

Paul Castiglia said...

Hello everyone - Paul Castiglia, co-writer and co-creator of Conservation Corps here.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the reviews of our comics - seriously - I found them very entertaining. I always enjoy bad reviews - they tend to contain a lot of humor but also good food for thought. I've had my share of both good and bad reviews, and several accomplishments beyond Conservation Corps, so reviews come with the territory.

I did want to clear up two things:

1.) YES, that Skyshark pinup WAS by our friend, Amanda Conner.

2.) The comment that we had no fan-base is incorrect. We received a staggering amount of fan mail from both the TMNT crossover special and throughout the publication of the mini-series. As our publisher, Archie's primary market was the newsstand and not comic shops, we could never sustain the 6-digit circulation numbers required, especially without an accompanying animated series or video game or toys. However, I will add this: I remember being at a big comic con at the height of the '90s collector craze, on the heels of The Death of Superman, promoting Conservation Corps (our comics were coming out at the same time as the big comics craze). There were long lines of folks waiting for the "hot names" of the day, their issues carefully bagged and boarded, with multiple copies of the same issue, due to the variant covers. I didn't have those long lines, but kids were coming up asking me questions about my comic series, detailed questions, as well as providing me their deep thoughts on my characters. It hit me: those fans with bagged and boarded multiple copies of "hot creator" titles may never actually read those comic stories, but the fans of my modest all-ages title were not only reading but absorbing and engaging with the content of my tales. That's very gratifying.

The point is, our comics were made for kids. They were not on the level of the admittedly more sophisticated Archie TMNT issues or Sonic issues, which I agree had great subtle and profound moments for older readers. Conservation Corps really was made with little kids in mind, and based on the reactions we received form those kids, we reached our target audience.

Thank you again for reviewing the issues. I wish you continued success with your blog.

Chet said...

@Paul Castiglia,

Cool you left a comment and gave us some rare insight into the contemporary reactions to CC. :-)

Given the fact these comics were created for little kids I guess they mainly had an educational function and perhaps should be viewed as such. On the other hand, by appearing alongside the TMNT and thus seemingly living in the same universe and continuity, expectations by even slightly older comic book readers might have been a lot higher in terms of the quality of the artwork and storytelling.

CC really is a relic of its time, and maybe it is even a good measure of the comic book industry and other kids media of the day. TMNT and Sonic obviously were Archie's stand-out titles. And while I personally don't like the Corps, I guess it was worth telling and drawing these stories if kids got the message and responded to it well.

Chet said...


I wouldn't say the mainstream success of strictly anime shows like Pokémon and Digimon in the west were the main cause for the demise of the first wave of 'furries' on TV and in comics. I think the badly written and unoriginal characters of a lot of these franchises were the main cause for these type of heroes to die out. A show about Ninja Turtles was highly original in the late '80s, but by 1993 we had to suffer through corny rip-offs like Biker Mice, Street Sharks and what-have-you.

There is about a five year gap between the last popular anthropomorphic animals (even TMNT was way past its peak by 1993) and the arrival of the child-friendly Japanese animé monsters on the American TV screens.

There are roughly three type of franchises that directly replaced TMNT and other animal heroes from the media outlets in the mid-'90s:

- Dark, gritty and heavy stilized superhero dramas (Batman: TAS, Gargoyles, X-Men)

- Japanese Super Sentai shows like Power Rangers

- Anything with dinosaurs in it, largely due to the popularity of 'Jurasic Park'

Obviously, anime was already on TV in some way or another since the early '80s, and in some ways the Samurai Pizza Cats were a missing link between TMNT, Power Rangers and Pokémon, with maybe even a little Animaniacs thrown into the mix. But the Japanese anime shows didn't start to flourish until about 1998, after the Power Rangers' success had started to wane.

In fact, if anything, Pokémon and later Dragon Ball-Z and The Last Airbender were a replacement of the Super Sentai, dinosaurs and animated superhero dramas that dominated kids TV in those days.

And of course TMNT also dabbled in anime and manga...

Paul Castiglia said...

Thank you for your thoughtful reply to my comment, Chet – I appreciate it.

I did write a couple of Sonic stories, one of which was a bit more on the serious side. In fact, probably the most serious comic story I’ve ever written (as I’m known primarily for doing kids’ and humor comics). It’s called “Statue of Limitations” and can be found in Sonic #70 as well as a few reprint collections, for anyone interested.

Thank you again.

Chet said...

@Paul Castiglia

Props for working on the Sonic comics. I'll try to get hold of that particular story, thanks for sharing.

By the way, who owns the copyrights to the Corps characters? Because if I ever see a flying shark with huge breasts in the Nick Turtles show, I'll hold you responsible! :-)

Paul Castiglia said...

LOL! Dan Nakrosis and I hold the rights to the Corps - so if you ever see any of them in the Nick TMNT show let me know so we can "get what's coming to us!" ;)

Adam said...

I always appreciate seeing comic/cartoon creators interact with the fan reactions. Paul, you have my appreciation for stopping by! I owned all the Corps issues as a kid, but I got them more out of interest of completing my TMNT collection than viewing them as something that would stand on its own merits. Perhaps one day we'll know how the Styranofoamus Rex cliffhanger would have ended, as I think that was really the high point of the series. :-)

Chet said...

@Paul Castiglia

Haha,I guess that means we can safely assume that the Corps won't be popping up in that show or any reprints. But with the giant cast this franchise already has, we're lucky if we see some of our favourites getting (more) screen time.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!

Anonymous said...

Man, Mark's blog must really get around. Makes me wonder how many other comic writers have read reviews of their issues over the years but not said anything. And here I thought this was some obscure TMNT blog on the internet that only forum members of the technodrome knew about. :p

Jeff Jacobson said...

"I guess there were furries in the 80's and 90's too, we just didn't know about them because the internet did not exist."

Tress MacNeille had a stalker that was obsessed with her purple skunk character from Tiny Toons.

Unknown said...

Congratulations on making it through the Conservation Corps series. I found them quite painful to read and I don't even have a problem with blatant environmental preaching!